In the Japanese capital, Tokyo, space is a luxury. Residents live in small apartments, stacked on top of each other, sharing with generations. They’re lucky if there’s room for grandma… let alone a pet. Most apartment blocks ban animals yet people still crave the interactions with their furry friends.
Enter the cat cafe. These businesses in Tokyo offer the time-poor and space-poor Japanese a chance to spend an hour playing with animals. You can pay by the hour to go into a room with dozens of friendly purring feline friends. For those moments, you can feel as if you have your own pet who is just waiting to see you and brighten up your day.
We’ve gone inside one of these cafes to show you what it’s like to find animal companionship in the world’s largest city.
This cat cafe is on the sixth floor of an office building, opposite the busy Ueno train station in the heart of Tokyo.
As we enter, we’re given instructions by the friendly young woman at the counter. “You can touch but please don’t pick up!”
You pay to visit the cat cafe based on how long you spend there. It works out to be about $12 an hour.
We are warned not to try to pat this cat, called Milky. “It’s danger cat,” the woman at the counter explains. “Bite, bite, bite… don’t touch please!”
Some of the other people in the cat cafe are happy just to sit there and pat the animals. This woman wants to play and is waving around a toy for one of the animals.
This child is happy just to do his own thing in the corner, knowing that the cats are around him.
There are about 25 cats in total, with a variety of ages, breeds, gender and friendliness.
A ‘menu’ and a booklet in both Japanese and English tell you a bit more about the animals. It has their photo, name, birthday and a bit of personality information.
Everyone we speak to at the cafe has their own favourite cat. It really does feel a bit like owning a pet, and they come back to see the same one day after day.
Michael Turtle is a journalist and travel blogger who writes about his experiences around the world at Time Travel Turtle.